NY Jets, Bryce Young, Sack, Defense
Bryce Young, New York Jets, Getty Images

Will McDonald and Jermaine Johnson were show-stoppers in the New York Jets’ preseason rout

When you win 27-0, there will be countless positives to take away from the game. But of the many optimistic New York Jets storylines to come out of Saturday’s rout in Charlotte, perhaps none are bigger than the dominance of New York’s young edge-rushing pair, Will McDonald and Jermaine Johnson.

The Jets’ two most recent first-round picks only received a modest chunk of first-half action against the Carolina Panthers – McDonald played 18 defensive snaps, Johnson played 12 – yet it felt like they were on the field every play. That’s because they were winning their reps at absurd rates. In a limited amount of time, McDonald and Johnson put together extensive highlight reels.

By my unofficial count, McDonald collected five pass-rush wins on just 11 pass-rush reps. Four of those five wins resulted in pressure that directly affected the QB, including a sack, a hit, and two hurries. On those four plays, McDonald’s pressure resulted in Carolina netting -5 yards (one sack plus 0-for-3 passing).

Johnson only played nine pass-rush snaps and managed to collect two pressures, including an utterly outstanding sack and a crushing hit. In addition, Johnson came up with a stuff on two of his three snaps against the run.

And keep in mind that McDonald and Johnson did some of this against Carolina’s starting offense.

Altogether, it was an incredibly promising day for New York’s defensive line. Even without Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Carl Lawson, or Al Woods, the Jets clobbered the Panthers all day long – and the tone was set by the Jets’ young edge rushers of the future, McDonald and Johnson.

Let’s take a look at the film of McDonald and Johnson’s excellence in Carolina.

Will McDonald film vs. Panthers

Firstly, here are the five “wins” I noticed from McDonald as a pass rusher.

The rookie shows so many things to like in this reel.

First off, the sack is a perfect demonstration of why he was a top-15 pick. The ability to bend around the corner and finish the sack as smoothly as McDonald does on that play is extremely unique.

It’s a crucial trait for becoming a true superstar kind of edge rusher – a la the Von Millers of the world who can rack up double-digit sacks and multiple strip-sacks on a yearly basis. McDonald has the potential to be that kind of guy because of his ridiculous bend. Not many edge rushers have that trait, which is why the ones who do have it are highly coveted and supremely valuable.

Another notable takeaway is the fact that McDonald was able to get not one, but two wins using an inside spin move. Remember, McDonald won with an inside spin move against Cleveland last week, too. That makes three spinning victories in two games.

McDonald’s rapid mastery of the inside spin move is massive for his development. Once McDonald establishes this move as a real threat, tackles will start sitting inside on it to take it away. That will leave them susceptible to the outside – not the greatest plan against a guy who possesses as much speed and bend as McDonald.

It also works as the perfect counter move to McDonald’s primary rush weapon. If the tackle sits on McDonald’s speed to the outside, he can respond by spinning inside.

McDonald is showing he can threaten blockers in multiple ways – he doesn’t look like a one-trick pony. It seems like McDonald is already making great progress on developing a well-rounded rush package. This is a fantastic sign for a player who was viewed as a long-term developmental pick when he was drafted.

Yes, he has to continue doing this consistently, and yes, he must translate this success to the regular season against better competition. But we’re seeing that McDonald already has a versatile array of moves in his toolbox. From a purely technical standpoint, he’s mastered these moves. He can pull them off. Now he has to continue proving he can execute them consistently in real games against NFL competition.

Jermaine Johnson film vs. Panthers

Here are Johnson’s two pressures and two run stuffs against Carolina. Four impactful plays in 12 snaps – that’s dominance.

Johnson’s sack epitomizes everything we wanted to see from him in his second season.

Coming out of his rookie year, the key for Johnson was to sharpen the technical aspects of his pass-rush game. Could he add more moves to his toolbox? Improve his counters? Have a better rush plan? It was obvious in 2022 that Johnson has top-tier physical traits as a pass rusher, and his run defense was already strong. The key was nailing down the finer points of pass rushing so he could win more consistently.

The sack demonstrated progress in all of these crucial areas. Johnson spins inside, converts into a bull rush, throws the tackle aside, and finishes the sack (along with Bryce Huff, who also had a great game).

Johnson rarely chained moves together in his rookie season. Seeing him combine the spin with a bull rush tells me that he has been working on his ability to execute combo moves. This, in particular, is a very rare combination of moves – you don’t often see someone spin into a bull rush. This is creative work from Johnson, which is exactly what I wanted to see from him this preseason.

The sack also shows a glimpse of improvement at countering. Notice the RB coming out of the backfield. He was prepared to chip Johnson if he went outside. But once Johnson noticed this, he spun inside to avoid the RB, leaving the RB stumbling into the ground without having made any contact on Johnson. This kept Johnson clean and got the tackle backpedaling on his heels, allowing Johnson to convert into a very effective bull rush.

Now, I’m not sure if Johnson already had a pre-snap plan to spin anyway, but either way – this is what good pass rushing looks like. It’s not always about simply overpowering or outrunning the man in front of you. Very often, it takes finesse to win. Johnson shows that here. Whether it was a good pre-snap plan (anticipating the RB would be there) or a good counter (instinctively reacting to the RB), Johnson uses the spin perfectly in this situation. Then he tops it off with overwhelming physicality. Combine finesse with elite athletic traits and you get a rep like this.

In addition to the sack, we saw Johnson loop inside on a stunt for a clean shot on Bryce Young. He also did his thing in the run game. On the first of the two run stops shown above, Johnson tossed two tight ends aside to set the edge and make the stop.

Overall, the Jets have to be thrilled with the growth shown by their young edge rushers in Carolina.

Audio Version available to members only: Learn more here

Download Jet X Mobile on the App Store and Google Play.

Want More NY Jets News & Jets X-Factor Content?

Download the free Jet X Mobile App to get customizable notifications directly to your iOS (App Store) or Google/Android (Google Play) device.

Add Jets X-Factor to your Google News feed to stay up to date with the New York Jets.

Follow us on Twitter @jetsxfactor for all the latest New York Jets news, Facebook for even more, Instagram for some of the top NY Jets images, and YouTube for original Jets X-Factor videos.

Join the official Jets Discord community to connect with likeminded fans.

Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
1 month ago

Dam, We haven’t even seen Lawson, Myers, Williams, Woods and Jefferson yet. This D-line is going to be brutally enforced upon opposing offences.

1 month ago

..loved McDonald ever since I saw his college tape. He’s going to be our best pass rusher since John Abraham. Given his body type, I thought he’d be just like Jason Taylor, but he already looks bigger since college. I’m pumped to see this guy take off. In Rivka’s sack prediction post, I predicted 9 sacks in limited snaps, but there’s a good chance he blows that up and plays a lot more than we thought.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rich
1 month ago

This is preseason of course but you make 2 really good points: there were some wins vs. 1’s, which means NFL starters, and the talent is clearly there. Think of all the media types who claimed Joe was “in a panic” it was “SOJ” and a “huge reach” to draft WMD should admit Joe actually knows what he’s doing. And, maybe they (media types) don’t know as much about building a football team as he does. Yes, we are all entitled to our opinions but by now JD deserves more than the benefit of the doubt.

Sure you can look at his misses, he has plenty, ALL GM’s do… fact. Look at yesterday’s game and look at the ENTIRE roster and it’s clear. Carolina, for all intents and purposes IS THE Jets roster that Joe took over, and the Jets out gunned their entire group with second and third string players. Oh, and some guys that made plays yesterday won’t be on the team simply because there aren’t enough roster spots.

As for Saleh and Joe being on the same page…look at a guy luck Bruce Hector who basically just got here and in position to make a play. Overall, this team has the best leadership group it’s had in my lifetime, going back to the 80’s and while there will always be room to criticize a missed draft pick, bad FA signing, botched game decision, or game plan OVERALL…this feels different. I don’t know what’s going to happen this season but it certainly feels like I’ll be rooting for a team who can win any week.

JJ and WMD are just to reasons this doesn’t seem “SOJ”

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago
Reply to  Jets71

I mostly agree, but the brief Parcells era was great as well.

1 month ago
Reply to  Jets71

Any talk of “hot seats” for Joe D or Saleh is utterly ridiculous.
Reaching up to get Jermaine was incredible. And tape of the war room on draft night refuted any bogus “panic” scenario, they wanted WMD.
I understand the difficulty we’ve had in establishing a dominant OLine, but it isn’t for lack of trying.
The Jets are relevant and it’s b/c of the two guys mentioned.